Schools Must Face Up to Math Woes

Letter to Penfield Post
By Claudia Lioy
Published 3/17/05

Schools must face up to math woes:

What constitutes a formidable math curriculum? Penfield Administrators should have pondered that question prior to adopting the reform math programs in 1999. Certainly, they didn't ask parents for advice or approval. Tinkering with mathematics curriculum is a time bomb. There's no stunning proof that these new programs are superior. Conversely, districts across the country are experiencing declining scores and angry parents. While we always strive for better ways to educate and advance our children, we must remember the important lesson that new isn't always better.

Penfield is teeming with well-educated parents. The traditional math program that preceded the reform math was strong because the community sported high expectations for all students. Administrators should have enriched the existing traditional program. It was proven successful and prepared students for the rigors of college. Real world problem solving content could have been added to existing coursework. Furthermore, the traditional program was a better fit with the math standards proposed by NYSED.

Many parents feel disenfranchised by administrators who railroaded these new math programs. It's impossible that so many people are wrong about the inadequacies. Parents who have attempted to address the shortcomings with faculty or administrators have been ignored.

Red flags rise everywhere. Elementary students cry because they can't comprehend homework problems. New math workbooks omit instructional reference materials. Children are dependent on parents for instruction. There's too much group work. Kids can't grasp concepts through discovery and walk away without the intended fundamentals. Math concepts aren't retained because they aren't practiced sufficiently to be ingrained. Students receive inflated math grades that don't equate to their actual knowledge in the areas of study. It's common practice in middle school to resubmit failing tests for revision credit to bolster grades thus creating a dilemma for parents who see grades that reflect high achievement, yet the skills are absent. Many families supplement with tutoring services to assure coverage. Students who once thrived in traditional math programs are disheartened to forfeit leisure time for remediation. Some well-known universities acknowledge that high school graduates from reform math curriculum are unprepared as compared with pupils from traditional programs.

The Penfield School Board has a responsibility to acknowledge the complaints from the numerous parents in the district and to end the stalemate. These problems with the new math program have been swept under the rug for too long. Our children deserve a choice in their math curriculum.

Claudia Lioy
Penfield, NY

For more about the Penfield, NY, Mathematics curriculum controversy please visit Parents Concerned With Penfield's Math Programs and see the NYC HOLD summary page Controversy over Mathematics in Penfield, NY, Public Schools.

Return to the NYC HOLD main page or to the News page or to the Letters and Testimony page.